Learning to Understand Your Dog’s Body Language

dogs body language

Learning to Understand Your Dog’s Body Language

It’s easy to think that only we humans know how to communicate our feelings, but it turns out that dogs have an intricate and sophisticated way of communicating through their body language. If you don’t know what you’re looking at, it can be hard to figure out what your pup is trying to tell you. Taking time to learn what your dog is communicating will increase your bond and help your dog manage its behavior. Keep reading for what you need to know about learning to understand your dog’s body language. 


If a dog feels playful, it will give the typical invitation to engage by lowering its front end while keeping the tail high. The tail will likely be wagging. The ears will be erect and the pupils dilated. The mouth is usually open with the tongue out. To continue the invitation to play, the dog will probably hold this pose for just a couple of seconds before running off – an invitation to chase. 


A dog that is feeling relaxed and approachable will be standing straight and tall, with ears up but not pushed forward. The mouth may be slightly open, and the head will be held high. The dog’s tail will be relaxed and low, not tucked under. During this state, a dog feels safe and calm. However, if you don’t know the dog, don’t force a greeting even if it looks relaxed. An unexpected interaction could be upsetting, so watch for changes in stance. 


Dogs are curious creatures with excellent hearing and smell, so they’ll often display signs of curiosity or interest. The eyes will be wide and the mouth closed, while the head will be held slightly forward from the body. The ears will be forward and might twitch or turn to hear better. The tail will probably be held straight out, parallel to the ground, and might wag a little. These poses will be held as the dog investigates whatever has caught its eye. 

Dominant and Aggressive

Dogs can become aggressive for a number of reasons. A dominant animal will show signs that he’s the “leader of the pack” and may become aggressive if he senses a challenge to his status. Dominant dogs need extra care and training, so take care to notice these common signs: raised and bristled tail, ears forward, fur standing up along the back (raised hackles), snarling mouth with teeth and gums showing, nose and forehead wrinkled, and a body that leans forward. 


Fear can also cause aggression in dogs, but the stance is quite different from dominant aggression. The body will be lower to the ground, and the mouth will be closed but pulled back. In addition, the tail will be tucked under instead of up high and bristled. Be cautious if you come across a dog in this stance; the dog may be feeling threatened and ready to protect itself. 

Contact Argos Dog Training 

Need some expert assistance as you learn how to understand your dog’s body language? Contact Argos Dog Training, the best professional dog trainer in the Boston area for help. We’ll be able to get you and Fido speaking the same language in no time!